When it comes to synthetic fibers, acrylic and modacrylic are two commonly used options. Both are known for their durability, softness, and ability to mimic natural fibers like wool.
However, they have some differences that set them apart from each other. In this article, we’ll explore the key characteristics of acrylic and modacrylic fibers, their pros and cons, and their common applications.
Acrylic fibers are a type of synthetic fiber made from polymerized acrylonitrile. They were first developed in the 1940s as an alternative to wool, which was expensive and scarce during World War II. Since then, acrylic fibers have become popular in the textile industry due to their versatility and affordability.
Characteristics of Acrylic Fibers
Acrylic fibers have several notable characteristics:
- Softness: Acrylic fibers are known for their softness, which makes them comfortable to wear against the skin.
- Lightweight: Acrylic fibers are lightweight, making them ideal for garments and accessories that require a drapey, flowing effect.
- Colorfastness: Acrylic fibers are highly resistant to fading and can retain their color even after multiple washings.
- Resistance to moisture and mildew: Acrylic fibers are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. This makes them resistant to moisture and mildew, which can cause damage to natural fibers like wool.
- Durability: Acrylic fibers are strong and resilient, making them resistant to wear and tear.
Pros and Cons of Acrylic Fibers
Like all fibers, acrylic has its pros and cons. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of acrylic fibers:
- Affordability: Acrylic fibers are cheaper to produce than natural fibers like wool, making them a cost-effective alternative.
- Versatility: Acrylic fibers can be used in a variety of applications, from clothing to home decor to outdoor gear.
- Easy to care for: Acrylic fibers are machine washable and dryable, making them easy to care for and maintain.
- Hypoallergenic: Acrylic fibers are hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for people with sensitive skin.
- Environmental impact: Acrylic fibers are made from nonrenewable resources, and their production can have a negative impact on the environment.
- Lack of breathability: Acrylic fibers don’t breathe as well as natural fibers like cotton or wool, which can make them less comfortable in hot weather.
- Static cling: Acrylic fibers can be prone to static cling, which can be annoying or even uncomfortable for some people.
- Pilling: Acrylic fibers can be prone to pilling, especially when exposed to friction or wear.
Common Applications of Acrylic Fibers
Acrylic fibers are used in a wide range of applications, including:
- Clothing: Acrylic fibers are often used to make sweaters, scarves, hats, and other cold-weather clothing.
- Home decor: Acrylic fibers are used to make blankets, throws, and pillows.
- Outdoor gear: Acrylic fibers are used in outdoor gear like tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks.
- Upholstery: Acrylic fibers are used to make upholstery fabrics for furniture.
Modacrylic fibers are another type of synthetic fiber, but they differ from acrylic fibers in some important ways. Modacrylic fibers are made from a copolymer of acrylonitrile and another monomer, usually vinyl chloride or vinylidene chloride. They were first developed in the 1950s as a flame-retardant alternative to natural fibers like wool.
Characteristics of Modacrylic Fibers
Modacrylic fibers have several notable characteristics:
- Flame resistance: Modacrylic fibers are inherently flame resistant, meaning they do not catch fire easily and can self-extinguish.
- Softness: Modacrylic fibers are soft and have a texture similar to wool.
- Low shrinkage: Modacrylic fibers have low shrinkage, meaning they retain their shape well after washing.
- Resistance to chemicals and sunlight: Modacrylic fibers are resistant to chemicals and sunlight, making them ideal for outdoor applications.
- Antistatic properties: Modacrylic fibers have antistatic properties, which means they don’t produce static electricity.
Pros and Cons of Modacrylic Fibers
Like acrylic fibers, modacrylic fibers have their pros and cons. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of modacrylic fibers:
- Flame resistance: Modacrylic fibers are inherently flame resistant, making them ideal for applications where safety is a concern, such as workwear or children’s sleepwear.
- Softness: Modacrylic fibers have a soft texture similar to wool, making them comfortable to wear against the skin.
- Durability: Modacrylic fibers are strong and resilient, making them resistant to wear and tear.
- Low shrinkage: Modacrylic fibers have low shrinkage, meaning they retain their shape well after washing.
- Higher cost: Modacrylic fibers are more expensive to produce than acrylic fibers, making them less cost-effective.
- Less versatile: Modacrylic fibers are less versatile than acrylic fibers and are primarily used in applications where flame resistance is required.
- Environmental impact: Modacrylic fibers are made from nonrenewable resources and can have a negative impact on the environment.
Common Applications of Modacrylic Fibers
Modacrylic fibers are primarily used in applications where flame resistance is required, such as:
- Workwear: Modacrylic fibers are used to make workwear for industries like oil and gas, electrical, and firefighting.
- Children’s sleepwear: Modacrylic fibers are used to make children’s sleepwear, which is required by law to be flame resistant.
- Wigs: Modacrylic fibers are used to make wigs and hairpieces, which need to be flame resistant for safety reasons.
- Furniture: Modacrylic fibers are used to make upholstery fabrics for furniture.
Manufacturing Process of Acrylic and Modacrylic Fibers
The manufacturing process of acrylic and modacrylic fibers is similar in many ways, but there are some key differences in the composition and treatment of the fibers that result in distinct final products.
Both acrylic and modacrylic fibers are produced through a process called wet spinning. In this process, the polymer is mixed with a solvent and then pushed through small holes to make long fibers. The fibers are then washed and dried to remove the solvent and set the final product.
The difference between acrylic and modacrylic fibers lies in the composition of the polymer used to create the fibers. Acrylic fibers are made from a polymer called polyacrylonitrile, which is a synthetic resin made from acrylonitrile monomers.
The polymer is first spun into fibers, which are then subjected to a process called “hot stretching.” During this process, the fibers are heated and then stretched to create a more uniform and stable product. The fibers are then washed, dried, and cut to length before being packaged for use in various applications.
Modacrylic fibers are made from a polymer that contains at least 35% acrylonitrile monomer units. The fire resistance of the final product is improved by mixing the polymer with other materials like vinyl chloride or vinylidene chloride.
The fibers are spun and treated in a similar way to acrylic fibers, with the addition of an extra step to improve the fire-retardant properties of the final product. After the fibers are spun, they are exposed to a special flame-retardant solution that coats the fibers and helps to prevent them from igniting in the presence of a flame. The fibers are then washed, dried, and cut to length before being packaged for use.
In both ways of making things, a mixture of dimethylformamide and water is usually used to dissolve the polymer. This solvent has a low boiling point and is easily removed during the washing and drying steps, leaving behind the solid fibers.
Care and Maintenance of Acrylic and Modacrylic Fibers
Acrylic and modacrylic fibers are both relatively easy to care for and maintain, but it is still important to take certain precautions to ensure their longevity and overall appearance.
When washing acrylic and modacrylic garments or textiles, it is recommended to use a gentle cycle with cold water. Hot water can cause these synthetic fibers to shrink, lose their shape, or even melt.
It is also best to avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as they can damage the fibers and cause pilling or discoloration. Instead, opt for a mild detergent that is specifically designed for synthetic fabrics.
2. Handle and Care
After washing, it is important to handle acrylic and modacrylic garments with care. Avoid wringing or twisting them, as this can cause the fibers to stretch or break. Instead, gently squeeze out any excess water and reshape the garment before laying it flat to dry. Avoid hanging acrylic and modacrylic garments, as the weight of the water can stretch the fibers out of shape.
In terms of storage, it is best to fold acrylic and modacrylic garments and textiles instead of hanging them. Hanging these synthetic fibers can cause them to stretch and lose their shape over time. It is also important to store these items in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, as exposure to heat and light can cause them to fade or become discolored.
If pilling occurs on acrylic and modacrylic garments, there are several methods that can be used to remove it. One option is to use a fabric shaver or pill remover, which gently removes the pills without damaging the fibers. Another option is to use a lint roller, which can quickly and easily remove loose fibers from the surface of the garment.
When it comes to ironing acrylic and modacrylic garments, it is important to use a low heat setting or to avoid ironing altogether. These synthetic fibers can melt or become shiny if exposed to high heat, so it is best to steam the garment instead of ironing it. If ironing is necessary, use a pressing cloth or towel to protect the fibers and avoid direct contact with the iron.
In terms of overall maintenance, it is important to regularly inspect acrylic and modacrylic garments for signs of wear and tear. If small holes or tears occur, they can be easily repaired with a needle and thread or a patch. It is also important to avoid exposing these synthetic fibers to excessive heat, as it can cause them to melt or become discolored.
In summary, acrylic and modacrylic fibers are two synthetic fibers commonly used in the textile industry. Acrylic fibers are known for their affordability, versatility, and easy care, while modacrylic fibers are known for their flame resistance and durability. Both fibers have their pros and cons and are used in a variety of applications, from clothing to outdoor gear to upholstery.
When choosing between acrylic and modacrylic fibers, consider your specific needs and requirements to determine which fiber is the best choice for your project.